Response to FJE’s review of Duckworth-Smith’s PS12

FJE invited me to respond to his commentary as (while stuffing our faces at lunch last week) we disagreed over both his reading of Anthony Duckworth-Smith's presentation at the last PS12 and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5. Our views on that seminal novel we shall keep for elsewhere. FJE’s comments addressed by this post are here: FJE's Comments.

FJE's main critique of Duckworth-Smith seems to be that his project is both too narrow and too broad in focus. My impression of FJE's criticism was the following: Firstly as an architect D-S should be presenting a resolved building design as a 'solution' to his site of investigation - that is that his project is too broad. Secondly, that as a resolved building design this should deal fulsomely with all aspects of design quality - that is that his project is too narrow. (I note that FJE levels neither of these criticisms at Weller.)

This broad-narrow criticism does not seem to engage with Duckworth-Smith's work on the grounds it was presented. D-S's presentation of his work did not claim to ‘solve’ these potential sites, but to engage with them, and address one of the perceived (or actual) resistances to their development. Contrary to FJE I find D-S's acoustic-based enquiry of these sites timely in direction and focus. I view this as one of the many possible routes of enquiry into the question "How can Perth become more dense?" Which to my mind is the question immediately raised by Weller’s (amongst others’) assertions that it must. There are a plethora of possible answers to this question and some have geographic locations and building forms that would have more spatial and lived quality than others.

D-S starts a move in one such direction of quality from a review of amenity by mobility in Perth's suburbs. He has located a typology – the East-West bus corridor – that to my knowledge has not yet been addressed in this context. (Our old highways and suburban railway stations have for example received much more attention. Perhaps they are more glamorous.) D-S draws on his specific skills and interests to address one significant constraint to this site – acoustics – while acknowledging the work of others who have worked in similar sites with different focuses.

Where FJE's criticism fails is in not being able to locate D-S's work within a developing field of enquiry. Within this context D-S’s work opens up more specific questions and possibilities for exploration. To my mind this 'opening up' is a research success, rather than failing.


AJH said...

I don't know if this makes me a fence sitter, but I partially agree with both your readings of D-S's presentation. I felt with the presentation and research that the failing was the step from the acoustic studies and mapping which did lead to very interesting and useful findings to the 'sketch design'(?) of the apartments and the integration of this acoustics enquiry with all the other necessities of high density living.

A few human points in relation to the D-S presentation need to be considered which is what FGE talked about: D-S summarised his presentation at the end of the night when many people's concentration would have been lessened (read Daniel Kahneman), myself included and was in stark contrast to RW who could probably sell ice to eskimo's. Both presentation styles were so different in that RW tends to talk about his research as an entity, you get the idea he is both researching and reflecting and all his side comments further explain the context, limitations and possibilities of the research. D-S seemed too close to his research to explain maybe a proper conclusion or further reflections on how this untried(?) acoustics enquiry can be integrated with all other concerns of high density, this was somewhat teased out in question time. I felt the application of the studies could have taken other forms for example maybe redesigning existing buildings which would show the impact of these findings on designs, or a simplified rule book like what 'Sunshine and Shade' delivers for architects.

While both research by RW and D-S leads to new and more informed conversations on high density, I thought the workable scale of D-S's enquiries could have had a more practical outcome than his 'pure accoustic' designs which were probably unfairly criticised due to their lack of appeal something that RW's graphics never lack.

rc said...

AJH, good points! On the topic of presentation, I think another think we should consider is that Weller was presenting a practically complete book (and working with a graphics team) and Duckworth-Smith was presenting a solo research project mid-process (and at the last moment).

However, I think your comments on how to frame and contextualise a research project to a new audience are on the money! I'm in a writing phase of my research myself at the moment, and the notion of researching and reflecting as two separate phases which can be slid between is quite inspiring... Hm. More thought to be had on this topic!

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